Saying Goodbye: Jeff Baker

And here I thought we might actually get to keep one of my old favorites…

No such luck.

Sigh.

I estimate the percentage of Cubs fans who regret to see Jeff Baker depart to be between 0.1 and 1.5%. I am a proud member of the minority.

No one will ever convince me that Jeffy B was not awesome. He was a solid bench guy, and in my experience was one of the nicest guys on the team these past few years. Plus, he calls Virginia home. And I love my fellow Commonwealthers.

I wish Jeff the very, very best of luck in Detroit. My fondness and respect for him will not soon die.

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Photo of the [Day? Week? Month? Year???]

Ryan Dempster was traded to the Atlanta Braves yesterday, only he wasn’t really. It was a fun adventure. And a false alarm for the ages.

I’m sitting on a few goodbye posts, but in the meanwhile I thought that as much of the world at large as possible needed to see the following picture, which I may or may not have filched off of Paul Sullivan’s Facebook page (a hint: I did).

Ordinarily the whole costume thing is just a hazing ritual for the rookies, but apparently this year the entire team decided to get in on it, donning the raiment of their favorite super-heroes. Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker cleverly decided to dress as Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, respectively.

There’s a reason why I love these guys.

Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part Two

Cubs baseball, and I mean real Cubs baseball, gets underway just the day after tomorrow! Squee! Excitement!

For now, here is the second installment of Rhyme-o-rama 2012. Look for the final one to be published some time before the first pitch of the season is thrown out.

~

Soriano is old and frail,
But capable, still, of kicking some tail.

Ryan Dempster will start day one
He eats up innings and is oh-so-fun.

David DeJesus: The bunting champ.
But what will he accomplish outside of spring camp?

James Russell may posess some hustle,
But he isn’t a batter, so it doesn’t matter.

Jeff Baker has earned a place in my heart,
He excels in that benchy/utility part.

We got this new chap by the name of Maholm,
When he faces the batters I hope he will stall ’em.

Young Steve Clevenger out-caught Castillo
Now our backup backstop he shall be-o.

I know next to nothing of Mr. Joe Mather
But I am inclined to like him, rather.

1B: Anthony Rizzo waits in the wings.
For now, LaHair will handle things.

I tried pretty hardzija,
But nothing rhymes with Samardzija.

Saying Goodbye: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”

I know that the average Cubs fan was relieved when the 2011 season finally ended last week, and probably doesn’t think there was much worth remembering fondly from it. I believe that there is always something worth remembering from every year. This year, by some miracle, I have come up with not one or two but TEN positive things to either take from the 2011 Cubs, to look forward to in 2012, or (in a few cases) both.

***

10. Sean Marshall… the man who deserved better than the Chicago Cubs. Sean recorded 34 holds and a 2.26 ERA and all that, but I don’t need to recite his stats. We all know how good he is.

9. Jeff Baker & Reed Johnson. Is it just me? Maybe. These may not be marquis-type players, but I have determined that they are genuinely likable human beings and I enjoy watching them play very much.

8. Carlos Pena’s smirk. I’m glad Carlos got to spend a year on the North side. I’ve always been a fan, and I will miss his smile next year.

7. Matt Garza. It obviously isn’t reflected in his won-loss record, but Matt had a very good year for us. And what stands out even more than his solid pitching performances is his enthusiasm. If it was so unflappable in a stinky year like this, I would love to be able to see how psyched up he’d be for a good year of Cubs baseball.

6. Kerry Wood. If seeing Kerry back home again didn’t warm your heart, you might not have one.

5. Throwback uniform days. We got not one, but TWO vintage uni days in 2011, a rare treat. Throwbacks will never fail to thrill me.

The socks… oh! The beautiful socks!

4. Ron Santo-ness.

3. Darwin Barney. I know that a lot of Cubs fans have long since turned their noses up at Darwin, proclaiming him unworthy of whatever acclaim he may have received this year. I know he isn’t Robinson Cano or anything, but Darney certainly exceeded my expectations of him (in the first half, particularly) and that is enough for me to count him among the high points of this year.

2. Tony Campanarama’s mad wheels. I know that some of the same noses turned up against Darwin Barney are likewise against Tony. He may not possess a lethal bat, but honestly… find me someone more fun to watch on the basepaths. You won’t, because there isn’t anyone. This is more than enough to earn our little speed-demon a spot on this list.

1. STARLIN CASTRO. Enough said.

***

Seeing Double: Cubs & Muppets edition

I have had this post in the back of my mind ever since Matt Garza came over to Chicago. Matt’s uncanny resemblance to various muppet characters is something I haven’t been shy about pointing out. But what about the rest of the team? It doesn’t seem fair to pick only on Mr. Garza, even if his muppety qualities are so strong. Today, therefore, I will be throwing a few more fellas under the bus… the Electric Mayhem tour bus, that is.

Keep in mind that some of these resemblances are physical, some are based more on personality. I think you can figure it out.

***

Darwin Barney – Rowlf the Dog

Justin Berg – Floyd Pepper

Kyle Smit (MiLB) – Beaker

Jeff Baker – Muppet Newscaster

(It’s the jawline.)

Carlos Marmol – Lew Zealand

Ryan Dempster – The Great Gonzo

Mike Quade – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew

Tony Campana – Bean Bunny

Carlos Zambrano – Animal/Sweetums

Kerry Wood – Kermit the Frog

GM For a Day

It had reached that time of year when fans the nation over begin to put their GM caps on and think/talk about what moves they would make if they were in charge. GM caps aren’t nearly as fun to play with when your team is mired in sub .500 mediocrity, but it is something to do nonetheless.

The following is a just-for-fun looksee at what I would consider doing if I were the Cubs GM for a day. You will see that, even as sentimental as I am, I do not share real GM Jim Hendry’s somewhat alarming stance on fire-sales and rebuilding.

This may be the most heartless post I’ve ever written.

***

Dempster, Ryan: While I am trying not to let my heart interfere with my head in my pretend 1-day tenure as Cubs general manager, I can’t help it with Dempsty. I couldn’t possibly let him go anywhere. (See also: Wood, Kerry.)

Garza, Matt: I never would have traded for Matt in the first place. Unless some other team was daft enough willing to part with 3 of its top ten prospects, I wouldn’t let go of him this year. It just seems pointless.

Grabow, John: Free to a good home.

Marmol, Carlos: There was a time when I would have considered Carlos #2 as untouchable. I don’t any longer. I suppose all that 9th inning stress has gotten to my head. I am not saying that I would trade Carlos, only that I wouldn’t rule it out. And I would demand a LOT in any possible trade situation (more than he is worth.)

Marshall, Sean: Sigh. It would be difficult for me to pull the trigger on any deal involving Sean, but I hope that in the end I would be able to do what was right for him and the Cubs.

Russell, James: If John Grabow and Sean Marshall aren’t around I guess that would make James the new go-to lefty in our bullpen.

Samardzija, Jeff: He’s done OK this year, certainly better than anyone expected. I would just keep Jeff where he is and ride out that contract.

Wells, Randy: Most of these fellows fit into one of three basic divisions. One, the guys somebody may want. Two, the guys that nobody want. Three, the guys people want but can’t have. I’m afraid that Randy might be a two.

Wood, Kerry: Maybe Kerry should be a one, but he’s a three as long as I’m GM.

Zambrano, Carlos: I wouldn’t even consider Carlos #1 as trade bait. If only to annoy Paul Sullivan.

Hill, Koyie: I heard a rumor that someone might be interested in Koyie. If it’s true, he’s theirs. But it probably isn’t.

Soto, Geovany: Not for sale. Catchers, even half decent ones, are too hard to come by.

Baker, Jeff: If I were the GM of a team that was in contention, I would want Jeff Baker. As Cubs GM, I would hesitate to part with him. Players as versatile and inexpensive as Jeffy B. are worth hanging onto, even in a bad year.

Barney, Darwin: Not going anywhere on my watch.

Castro, Starlin: Crown prince of all the untouchables.

DeWitt, Blake: Blake has never really seemed like a fit on the Cubs. I would send him some place where he could be more useful.

Pena, Carlos: I love Carlos Pena. I always have. I’ve enjoyed watching him as a Cub. But he is still probably the first guy on the proverbial chopping block.

Ramirez, Aramis: The times, they are a-changing. I’m willing to say goodbye if he is.

Byrd, Marlon: Yet another prime trade candidate who I’d miss.

Campana, Tony: Should probably be in triple-A getting more seasoning and playing time, but if half the trade propositions I’ve suggested went down, he’d probably have to tough it out in Chicago.

Fukudome, Kosuke: Sayonara, Fuke. (I seriously feel so mean all of a sudden.)

Johnson, Reed: I couldn’t let go of Reed. So much for that head/heart business.

Soriano, Alfonso: Rumors, schmumors. Fonsie isn’t going anywhere, whether we like it or not.

*Jackson, Brett: I would appease the people (myself included) who would like to have a peek at Mr. Jackson in Chicago before the 2011 season expires.

*Flaherty, Ryan: How do you feel about third base, Mr. Flaherty?

***

So, how ’bout it? What would you all do if you had GM powers for a day?

Predictorama!: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs, Part One

I shall conclude all my prediculating this week with an “in-depth” peek at the Chicago Cubs. Come to think, I’ll probably due some more once October hits, but no worries! That is many months off.

For now the end (mercifully, of both Predictorama! 2011 AND the off-season) is in sight. What better to do with these few remaining days than taking a stab or two at what the future may hold for Chicago’s North-siders?

This is Part One… look for Part Two on Thursday, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. To help measure my expectations, I have instituted a “system” of baby sloth hugs. The more hugs, the better, obviously. It’s not an exact science, though, so don’t read too much into it.

~

In 2010, I predicted that the Cubs would be neither as bad and people generally expected nor as good as they secretly hoped. Don’t think it cheap of me, but I pretty much expect the same for 2011. That’s about all I have to say on the team as a whole. I’ll take the rest of this preview player-by-player, going in alphabetical order. Ready? Here we go.

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Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney, Blake DeWitt: It is hard to say who will see the most playing time at second base. I consulted a magic-8 ball, but it was noncommittal, so I am lumping these gentlemen all together. Their names are conveniently close together alphabetically. I am strongly of the opinion that we need something cool to call this infielding trio. “Killer B’s” has been done… do you think “Bakey, Blakey & Barney” works, or does it sound too much like a law firm of  babies? I am wide open to any better-suited suggestions.

Marlon Byrd: I am prepared to award Mr. Byrd 5 baby sloth hugs per web gem he makes. That should add up to something like 7,000 hugs, right? I forecast a slight drop-off from the offensive stats he put up in 2010. Nothing drastic. Byrd will continue to be the Wyrd.

Additional Note: Baby sloth would highly approve bringing back the post game victory hug that was instituted for a time last season.

Andrew Cashner: I am delighted that Cash was awarded a spot in the starting rotation and have every hope of his holding his own there. I expect we’ll see some flashes of brilliance interspersed with a few rough periods. Don’t lose heart, though. He’s gonna be alright, in the long run.

Starlin Castro: If Darlin’ Starlin continues to play in the regular season like he has in the spring, and improves a bit in the field, I will buy him a pony and grant him infinite baby sloth hugs.

Tyler Colvin: Will easily become the most popular “TyCo” in the Midwest since beanie babies. With any luck, he will hold onto his value better. Speaking of which, what will anyone give me for a Patti the Platypus (near-mint condition)?

Ryan Dempster: I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that Demp will have another solid year. Who could ask for a steadier, more reliable pitcher? Or a more genuinely like human being, for that matter? Baby sloth hugs: lots and lots.

Kosuke Fukudome: I would be no more surprised to see Fu put up respectable numbers than I would be to see him wearing a different team’s uniform by August. Doesn’t really need any baby sloth hugs, as he has an adorable Asian child of his own to embrace at his leisure.

Matt Garza: Matt gets two baby sloth hugs for every different muppet he will remind me of this season. That’ll add up to more than a few. Pitching-wise, I am going to be optimistic and predict 14-15 wins and an ERA in the mid 3’s.

John Grabow: I honestly believe that John G. will exceed expectations this season. I’m not saying he won’t eat a few kittens along the way, but I have a generally positive feeling. 12 baby sloth hugs, one for each hold I predict John will record.

Koyie Hill: I hear more lamentations about Koyie than any other individual on the team. I’ll stick up for him, not just because I like him, because I don’t find it entirely fair. There aren’t more than half a dozen really good starting catchers in the major leagues. It’s almost funny that people seem to  expect so much from a back-up. I can only owe it to the fact that we were spoiled for several years with Henry Blanco, who was exceptional for a second string guy. I am sorely tempted to do a bit of a study on back-up catchers. I may well do it, if I continue to be provoked by peoples treatment of Koyie. Really, I would just implore that folks be a bit more realistic. That’s all.

I grant Mr. Hill one baby sloth hug per insult he receives this year. I hope they are less than in 2010.

~